The Nation's Pulse

This Bud’s Not for You

Hands off my culture!

By 7.8.08

Send to Kindle

I believe in free markets, free trade, creative destruction, fierce business competition, and shareholder value.

I also believe in my hometown company, Anheuser-Busch. I believe in family business, local institutions, free beer on brewery tours, Clydesdale draft horses, and Grant's Farm, the Busch family estate with an authentic (or close enough) Bavarian Bauernhof stable and courtyard with little motorized trams to cart you around.

But most of all I believe in Cardinal baseball. The brew house and the team are no longer joined at the hip, but they still call it Busch Stadium, the third such field of dreams to carry the name.

Afternoon Tea at Dallas's (yes, Texas) Adolphus Hotel, established in 1912, is a most delightful experience, one I recommend if you want to enjoy old-world elegance thanks to Adolphus Busch who also founded the brewery that bears his name.

I have not been to Tampa's Busch Gardens, but I am sure I would love it.

My high degree of angst is caused by the $46 billion (that's with a "b") tender offer by the Belgian brewer, InBev, to buy out St. Louis's trademark business which, for the moment, has been rejected by the brewery's board of directors. In countless churches throughout the city, worshipers pray, devoutly, that this is just not a negotiating tactic in quest of a more generous offer. Just say no!

This proposed transaction puts my economic principles at odds with my sense of rootedness in time and place. I grew up with guys in South St. Louis who, if they were able to land a job at the brewery, thought they had died and gone to heaven. Good pay, great benefits and free beer-within limits. Landing an A-B beer distributorship was the stuff of myth and legend. Cindy McCain chairs Hensley & Co., one of the largest such operations in the country.

Evidently, I am not alone on this. There is even a website up and running, SaveAB.com, which boldly proclaims, "It's Not Just A St. Louis Brand. It's An American Brand." I'll drink to that.

This is cultural trauma of the first order. My wife, loyal daughter of Milwaukee, knows what this is all about. Pabst and Schlitz disappeared from the scene, and Miller fell prey to the South Africans.

Just imagine how a Michigander might feel if Toyota bought out Ford or GM.

I distinctly recall high school boys in the pre-MADD 1960s and early 1970s consuming several cans of Budweiser, at one sitting, and repeating from memory, in a kind of tribute, the immortal words inscribed on the cans just inhaled:

This is the famous Budweiser beer. We know of no brand produced by any other brewer which costs so much to brew and age. Our exclusive Beechwood Aging produces a taste, a smoothness and a drinkability you will find in no other beer at any price.

Note to my children: I never did this and neither will you!

OK, so Anheuser-Busch is not simon pure on this local ownership thing, as Rolling Rock fans will tell you. But A-B bought it from InBev, bringing it into U.S. ownership again, right?

Yes, globalization is coming home to roost. Holy bats in the Bauernhof! Do I have to abandon my free-market, free-trade principles? Probably. Can I reconcile myself to a Belgian takeover of my town's premier business and cultural icon? Of course not.

No sir, you Flems and Walloons, this Bud's not for you.

Like this Article

Print this Article

Print Article
About the Author

G. Tracy Mehan III served at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in the administrations of both Presidents Bush. He is a consultant in Arlington, Virginia, and an adjunct professor at George Mason University School of Law.